Image: Screen Gems

The father of a girl who attacked a classmate to appease the fictional character Slender Man is denouncing the movie adaptation of the horror meme, saying it popularizes a tragedy.

Slender Man, whose trailer came out this week, is about four high school girls who perform a ritual in an attempt to debunk the myth of Slender Man, an unnaturally tall, faceless man who stalks children in forests and can foster paranoia in those who believe in him. The character, created by Eric Knudsen for a Photoshop contest in 2009, has since inspired real attacks—mainly among young girls, including reports of a 13-year-old stabbing her mom in Ohio and a 14-year-old setting her house on fire in Florida.

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The most highly-publicized Slender Man crime was the 2014 stabbing of 12-year-old Payton Leutner by Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, who were of the same age. Anissa and Morgan lured Payton out into the woods and stabbed her 19 times in an attempt to show their loyalty to Slender Man and become his protected “proxies.” Luckily, Payton survived. Both girls pled guilty to attempted intentional homicide—Morgan will be sentenced next month, asking for 40 years in a mental hospital, while Anissa got 25 years in a mental institution.

Anissa’s father, Bill Weier, told the Associated Press he’s upset that a movie was made about Slender Man, especially its impact on young girls (the film was approved in 2016, two years after the stabbing). He called it “extremely distasteful,” and said he hopes his local theater doesn’t show the film. It doesn’t look like Slender Man includes a fictionalized version of Anissa and Morgan’s story—though some have pointed to drawings seen in the trailer that mimic some of Morgan’s pictures—but for him, it’s still cashing in on a fictional character who inspired very real tragedies.

“It’s absurd they want to make a movie like this,” Weier said. “It’s popularizing a tragedy is what it’s doing. I’m not surprised, but in my opinion it’s extremely distasteful. All we’re doing is extending the pain all three of these families have gone through.”

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We saw similar criticism in 2016 with The Forest, the horror movie starring Natalie Dormer about Aokigahara, a forest in Japan where people have gone to commit suicide. The movie was accused of trivializing a tragic location to produce a generic spooky flick. Aokigahara was in the news again this week, after YouTuber Logan Paul posted a video of himself finding a dead body there.

[via The Hollywood Reporter]